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    • How Gunpowder Ended the Middle Ages
      Some time back I read a book called The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559. One thread I picked out as particularly clear was their explanation of the effects of gunpowder. The first bit is what as known as pike and shot. Early gunpowder weapons were slow and inaccurate. But late medieval pike units had already changed warfare: not only could they […]
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The Peasants are Revolting

Have you heard about the healthcare group in Wisconsin that sued a competitor for “poaching” 7 of its staff? Yeah, Thedacare got a restraining order preventing Ascension Health from employing the 7 healthcare workers. This blows my mind. A judge allowed a employer to prevent 7 of its former employees from seeking other jobs with better pay and work-life balance.

Didn’t something like this happen back in 1381 after the Black Plague when workers were so scarce that feudal lords wouldn’t let their peasants hire themselves out to other lords for more money? Peasants were prohibited from leaving their homes to seek employment elsewhere. There was a rebellion over it. The peasants stormed London and petitioned the King for redress of their grievances. I have no idea what gave them the crazy idea that a young king with little experience with the outside world would give a damn about some workers who felt exploited. If I recall correctly, Richard II had the leaders slaughtered.

Yeah, that worked out well.

That’s what you get for centuries of conditioning to believe there is a natural order and everyone in their places and don’t challenge your betters and Dieu et Mon Droit for the king. But if I were an employer these days, I’m not sure I would count on all of my workers to be that wired in to the Fox News patented brand of Learned Helplessness.

Anyway, the restraining order was lifted on Monday and the 7 healthcare workers went to work for their new employer. Did I mention that Thedacare didn’t bother with a counter offer? I guess they thought that the lawsuit would be enough of a deterrent. And anyway, employers have had their way for so long that it probably never occurred to them that a labor shortage might mean they need to up their salary and compensation after squelching both since the 80’s.

Well, it’s only a temporary setback. They’ve got a supermajority on the Supreme Court. Who wants to bet that some kind of maximum wage law going into effect in a red state will be upheld by Brett and Amy? And Sam and Neil and Clarence. And John.

Meanwhile, the LinkedIn job postings keep landing in my inbox at approximately 100 open positions a day. I see that some companies are starting to post their salary bands. But the bands are still as wide as the ocean. They are supposedly based on years of experience not sex, age or location. Call me skeptical.

I’ve heard that middle management might be to blame. You might be lucky and get to work for a supervisor who likes you and gives you great performance reviews. Or you may work for someone with a substance abuse problem who is threatened by you and keeps you stuck at the same level on a fixed income for as long as you work for them, preventing you from getting an internal transfer, forcing you to look elsewhere. That’s been known to happen. But more likely, the bean counters made promotions rare and raises minuscule and managers couldn’t really do anything about that. You can’t blame workers for bolting at the first opportunity.

Or you might work for an employer who didn’t get the memo about alllll those other jobs out there and cluelessly stopped the program that the employees used to pay for additional vacation time. What McKinsey consultant thought that was a good idea? Just start Everyone with 4 weeks of VACATION TIME and increase it by one week after 3-5 years. No, extra sick days are not the same thing. They’re necessary but don’t convey the same sense that employers really understand what work life balance is all about.

Or give real bonuses like the 15% we used to get in R&D before the financiers decided to eliminate a huge chunk of their business model. You know, stuff like that. I know! Consider all the things a top level executive or shareholder gets that makes their families happy and think about whether maybe rank and file workers might like that too. Like financial security, retirement without poverty and money to pay for college without indenturing their children for 40 years.

For example, if pharmageddon hadn’t happened, I’d be looking at a salary three times what I make now and 6 weeks of vacay instead of a pinched three that I must carefully portion out throughout the year.

Ok, Nevermind. I’m getting overwrought. Anyway, I love my current job. Really. I couldn’t ask for a better team.

My point is that even without Covid and the baby boom retirement, there was a baby bust coming for the generation born in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It’s a new environment and now employers need to adapt. Begging people to stay or suing to prevent them from leaving is not going to solve the short term problem that has resulted from years of the top level taking the cream and passing the skim down to the wage slaves. If you’re begging wage slaves to stay, you’re kind of acknowledging that maybe their contribution to your bottom line is as great or greater than your dozens of executive Vice Presidents with the slick 45 slide PowerPoint decks.

Maybe employers should see how the other half lives. You know, grow some much needed empathy. Talk with the employees who can’t afford to retire or go on vacations even if they had the time? The ones who are one paycheck from insolvency? (I’m good now but I’m beginning to be an expert at frugality) How about the ones who still can’t afford to fix their retaining walls after 2 years? (Yeah, that’s still a thing).

The s#%*’s real out here. You’ve got a problem if the peasants are swapping out their laptops and working remotely for some company in Colorado. Or Oregon. Or North Carolina. Honestly, I can’t keep up with all of the zillions of opportunities that are out there. Stop whining “baby, baby, baby, don’t leave!”. Man up and do the right thing. Employees want to see that you’ve changed and really mean it this time. Because they’ve got their mojo back now and they’re looking hot.

8 Responses

  1. Employers cannot pay a fair wage to their workers and have their CEOs climbing the Forbes 500 at the same time. Therefore, screw the employees, the CEO must go up the mountain.

  2. Ah, that was what Wat Tyler’s “peasant revolt” was about. I am not sure that I ever knew exactly what caused the march to the palace. I read a “historical novel,” “Who Was Then the Gentleman?.” about it There was a poem, “When Adam delved/ and Eve span/ Who was then the Gentleman?,” which the marchers may have used as a rallying cry; the meaning being that there was no hierarchy back then, no gentlemen and no peasants. I like the power of this little rhyme.

    As I recall the story, the palace was woefully unguarded, and the group of peasants could actually have overthrown the king and his ministers, had they had that intention. But they were peasants, and they thought that the king would listen to them and help. There was always apparently this myth among the common people in England for centuries, that the king was on the side of the people, not the aristocrats. As the novel tells it, Richard had a shrewd minister who manipulated the peasants, told them that he would meet with Tyler to discuss the grievances, then had him killed, which caused the peasants to trudge on home, and the feudal system to remain for more centuries.

    With all the other things we hear about on the news, some of it essentially misdirection, we do not hear about the efforts by corporations to return to the late 19th Century, when the workers had no rights at all, and should consider themselves lucky to have their 3 cents an hour, 80 hours a week “at will” employment, terminable at any time, for no reason other than the whim or greed of the employer. The Supreme Court is dominated by people who like that vision.

    • That was summarized beautifully. I think I got the Cliff notes version from Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror. (Highly recommended)

      • My father read Tuchman’s book, we liked her, and had read “The Guns of August,” and “The Proud Tower,” both of which you may have read, and are really good. For some reason, I did not read more than a chapter or two of “A Distant Mirror,” maybe I was reading other things; but I am sure it is very good, and I will make sure to buy and read it in the next month or two. I do love reading about the Middle Ages. There is a novel by Daphne Du Maurier, which keeps taking the protagonist back to that period, in the exact same spot as he stands in, via some kind of temporary drug; it is quite haunting, he falls in love with a woman there whom he cannot interact with, just watch, and he likes that time better than his own. It is called “The House on the Strand,” very atmospheric.

        • That sounds a bit like the movie, “Somewhere in Time,” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

          Roz in NJ/NYC

          • The stories about going back in time are always haunting “Somewhere in Time,” based on the novel by Richard Matheson, is a wonderful movie. “The House on the Strand,” in addition to Du Maurier’s evocation of 14th Century England, has the aspect that the man at the center of the novel, can only see it, not be part of it, and then is thrust back into his current life, which becomes less and less satisfying.

  3. The Malefactors of Great Wealth and the Small Business Booboisie insisted on paying the lowest possible wages, and also insisted on paying the lowest possible taxes.

    The latter resulted in, among other things, the State not being able to afford to provide day care, first-rate schools, and other social goods to support the bearing and raising of children.

    Nor could parents, on the Dickensian wages they were able to earn, afford to bear and raise any great number of children themselves.

    Now the MGWs and SBBs are wondering why they can’t obtain enough workers.

    Hey, Scrooge McDuck! You thought Magica De Spell was a bitch? Wait ’til you meet Madame Karma! 😈

  4. Meanwhile…

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